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Liverpool progressed into the League Cup quarter-finals as Takumi Minamino’s and Divock Origi’s flicked finish helped Jurgen Klopp’s men edge out Preston North End 2-0.
The Reds only just survived a very passive first start, and could have easily been two goals down as the Championship side had excellent opportunities to score through Brad Potts and Sean Maguire.
Neco Williams was the outstanding player for Liverpool; clearing Maguire’s first-half striker off the line just before assisting Minamino’s goal with a great run and cross.
Klopp often cut a frustrated figure, as Preston buoyed on by the passionate Deepdale crowd spurred them on throughout the whole contest.
However, Origi’s impressive heel flick which looped over the goalkeeper silenced the home crowd, and Liverpool went on to progress into the quarter-finals.
Here are three things Klopp got right and two he got wrong.
What Klopp got right
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s start
Chamberlain was deployed in central midfield for a very rare start for Liverpool.
Appearances have become very had to come by over the last few seasons, and when they do he is often fielded as one of the attackers in the frontline.
However, he was at the heart of everything for the Reds, driving through the middle of the pitch with the ball and looking to shoot on goal.
Rustiness is still prominent in his game, as was evident by a few wayward passes and through balls in the opening 45 minutes.
However, his contributions were positive overall. The former Arsenal star looked sharp and close to full fitness.
His drive and penetration makes him one of the most unique players Liverpool have within their arsenal, and if he is able to steer clear of injuries, who could be a very good option for Klopp in the games to come.
Van den Berg allowed to play for Preston
What will Liverpool achieve this season? Comment below
Loan players are often not allowed to play against their former club, but the Reds gave special dispensation to Preston to allow Sepp van den Berg to feature against them.
Clubs rarely allow their loanees to compete against them in competitive action, due to the risk of them performing well or even scoring the winning goal against them.
However, Klopp got a first-hand opportunity to watch the promising Dutchman first hand against Premier League opposition.
And the 19-year-old performed admirably well against Klopp’s men, in a performance which will surely earn himself a small place in the forefront of Liverpool’s mind.
Neco Williams inclusion
The provider of the winning goal and arguably the man of the match. Williams was one of the few players to emerge from the first half with credit.
His goal line clearance from Ryen Ledson potentially saved Liverpool from an embarrassing defeat to the Championship side.
He covered Adrian brilliantly, as Ledson’s rebound flew past the stranded Spaniard, but not past Williams on the goal line.
The young full back was also the hero at the other end, as he showed great dexterity and quality to drive past the Preston defence and find Minamino with the cross, for the all important goal.
Big things are expected of Williams, and with performances like these, it is easy to see why.
What Klopp got wrong
Liverpool's high line
Liverpool’s high line is one of the reasons why they have been able to smother most opposition this season.
However, it is fallible to error, and with the likes of Joe Gomez, Konstantino Tsimikas, and Neco Williams being afforded rare starts, it was perhaps not the best moment to play the high-risk strategy.
There were many moments in the first half where Gomez and Matip were running back towards their own goal, and better finishing would have seen Preston take a commanding lead.
Preston perhaps should have been ahead after Sean Maguire threaded a wonderful through ball in-between Gomez and Matip, and found the on-rushing Brad Potts, however, his finish lacked conviction, and was subsequently saved easily by Adrian.
A successful high defensive line requires impeccable focus, timing, and anticipation, and with three of the starting back four not receiving too many minutes this season, it could be argued they were not quite match ready for it.
One look at the first half statistics would have had you thinking Preston were the Premier League side in the contest.
They had more shots on goal and shots on target than Klopp’s side, and better finishing could have seen them out of sight by half time.
Potts’ tame first half effort was swiftly followed by a spectacular passage of play where Preston created two chances which almost looked harder to miss.
After Maguire pinched the ball of the toes of Gomez, the ball found its way into the path of Lindsay who squared the ball across the six yard box to Maguire who looked certain to score.
Adrian impressively got across his line to push the ball into the path of Ledson, whose effort beat the Spanish goalkeeper but not Williams who cleared off the line.
Williams’ last-ditch block fell into Potts’s path, however, he was not able to make up for his earlier missed chance and his half volley was ballooned over the crossbar.
Liverpool’s slow start could, and perhaps should have resulted in Preston taking a two-goal lead into the second half.
The Reds were much better in the second half, as Minamino’s early goal proved to be the only goal of the contest.
- Jurgen Klopp
- Liverpool FC
- League Cup
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